Research Critique: Jennicam, (1997)

Inspired by Fish Tank Cam and coffee pot machine

The world’s first webcam to monitor a coffee pot

I just find people’s priorities very interesting. The fact that the first webcam was used to monitor the level of coffee in its pot. Also fish tank cam stood the test of time!

7-Year Performance

“All the world’s a stage,

and all the men and women merely players…”  ~ Shakespeare

In the case of Jennifer Ringley in Jennicam, the extent of her life being a performance for seven whole years in front of her webcam sounds like an exhausting experience. To me, that meant that she went with little to no privacy, and I wonder how that affected her psychologically and how she was able to go on for seven years. Its as if she had a committed relationship with her webcam, in this case, with her many viewers. This is one example of the collective narrative where viewers formed connections with Jennifer’s everyday life. Indeed this largely open relationship with the world perhaps did affect her real life relationships as there were scandals and eventually she disappeared off the face of the Internet in 2003.

This 7-year performance leads me to these questions.

How much of our lives in this present age are we truly living? Perhaps like Jennifer, our regular lives are being dramatised and every detail magnified. Is the internet reshaping us to become creatures that rely on external validation from the media? The abrupt end to Jennifer’s internet presence is a trend that people are experiencing now in smaller doses termed the ‘Social Media Cleanse’. As we live in the blurred realities of the internet age, we need such breaks to re-establish the boundaries between virtual/ third space and reality.

BROKE the Internet before “Breaking the internet” became a thing

Move over Kim Kardashian, Jenni started it…

Jennicam  received many viewers that at its peak received 7 million viewers a day. Of course, more intimate acts like Jennifer kissing her boyfriend overloaded the site and broke the internet in its time.

“I got a call from my ISP that I owed them several hundred dollars for bandwidth charges and I’d have to move my site. It was not something I had definitely prepared for.”

She also had to install more cameras and earned money from premium viewers. People are drawn to others doing normal everyday things and can relate to that. I would say that she is a pioneer for vlogging, letting people into their personal lives and sharing their experiences with each other.


Jennicam can be seen as an example for all of us about how far we could go with living in the Third Space. I particularly find her story extremely close to reality and relatable too. Like all good things must come to an end (Insert favourite TV Series here eg. Friends), Jennicam came to an end. She explored, became more matured and eventually liberated herself by disappearing and shutting down her cam. Her internet presence gave way to a whole bunch of other people interacting on the internet which is pretty amazing.

3 comments on “Research Critique: Jennicam, (1997)

  1. Hi Tiffany

    It is true that involvement of personal life in our broadcasting have led us to dramatise it so as to attract viewers and probably portraying a false identity of ourselves. It did not occur to me that Jennifer’s personal broadcasting could affect her psychologically. In the beginning I thought that she just wanted to be different since no one during that time would approach broadcasting in such manner and overtime she got used to it. I guess that there is always consequences when one becomes too open in their personal life.

    I felt that JenniCAM was interesting since it explored another area of broadcasting which is so common nowadays. If JenniCAM did not exist I guess this area of broadcasting would have happened much later or never begin. Everyday people around the world go live where friends or strangers could see what they are doing. I am amazed that this have become a big thing and how people in the present day are willing to converse with others without thinking about what lies behind the camera. I really liked the point where you explore the use of the third space in relation to JenniCAM and how all good things must come to an end.

    I have learnt lots from your essay! 😀

  2. Excellent. And I think the reference to Shakespeare’s quote about “all the world’s a stage” couldn’t be more relevant in our age of global communications. What kind of plays might Shakespeare have created on the Internet?

    I was impressed with your analysis of the “lifecycle” of a project like JenniCam and then our own relationship to social media in general. You said:

    As we live in the blurred realities of the internet age, we need such breaks to re-establish the boundaries between virtual/ third space and reality.

    You are right, many of us are experiencing the exhaustion of online communication, once the fascination is over, we find ourselves retreating away from the constant super-participation. As you point out, this is precisely what Jennifer Ringley did after her seven year project. If you search for her on Facebook, she is not to be found. Isn’t that incredible.

  3. I agree that there is a psychological toll on being overly connected. However, nowadays especially within our highly connected circles, we can be in constant contact with each other or knowing what everyone is doing; unlike Jennicam where she was only sending out but not receiving. I’m curious as to whether there is a difference between the two.

    I think being overly connected also brings with it expectations, when someone doesn’t text back as frequently as we do, then we can feel like we’re being disrespected. I think that this is an ill of our time, where the focus is ourselves and if everyone is on “our level” so to speak. But this is merely a symptom of wanting a human connection, and the vulnerability in feeling invalidated if we don’t get a reply, which is perfectly normal.

    But in being ABLE to reach out more often, we’re also creating more situations where we might not get a response back. This hyperdrive of socialising at 1000km/s often leads to an atmosphere of social anxiety with people. This is often a point of reflection of “are we being too connected”, and there we reach a point of, perhaps we’re spending too much of our mental energy on these apps, and the social media cleanse appears.

Leave a Reply